The gig economy is alive and well in every aspect of our modern society, from Etsy to Uber to freelancing journalists and website designers. While some types of gigs may pay more than others or be vastly more complicated, the truth of the matter remains that if something can be outsourced and freelanced, it?s going to be.
The trouble with freelancing is in what it takes clients and giggers to find each other. There?s a lot of free-floaters on both sides vainly grasping into the aether to find someone who fits their needs ? and likely failing more times than not to truly click with someone. This is where Upwork comes in.
Upwork is an online marketplace that directs clients seeking XYZ services toward freelancers willing to provide XYZ services. This is an excellent way for new digital gig freelancers to build a base client network, become familiar with their field in a professional setting, and build a name for themselves as trustworthy, reliable, and high-quality. For those who don?t wish to build a career out of freelancing, rather just taking on a few gigs here and there to make money off of a hobby, Upwork can also easily serve that purpose.
Advantages of Upwork:
- Access to an annual spending base of $900 million
- Immediacy of hire ? usually less than three days per gig
- Low-risk contracts guaranteed by Upwork
- Freedom of location, except as posted
Disadvantages of Upwork:
- Competition: because everyone on Upwork is fighting for the same jobs, every proposal is like a job interview in which you have to prove yourself again and again
- A fee structure ranging from 5% on high-paying clients to 20% on the lowest-paying clients (we?ll come back to this later)
- Climbing your way from 0 stars to 5 stars, even for freelancers well-established off the site.
Despite these disadvantages, the upside of Upwork is that it?s an excellent way to jumpstart a new career, boost an old career, or provide a financially-beneficial outlet for all that free time spent writing stories and designing cartoon characters.
Build Your Profile Well
Your profile is a blend of your resume and get-to-know-you, and therefore important to use to your advantage. You need to be honest in your skills and experience without scaring away potential high-paying clients, but don?t oversell yourself in an effort to get high-paying contracts you can?t deliver on.
Things you?ll need to build a successful profile:
- A headshot
- Basic details, including:
- Location (country-based), hours, and preferred rate
- Any education (beyond high school) or certificates
- Job history ? whether or not it?s related to your profile, it?s good to let people know if/that you?ve worked for employers before
After your initial profile is approved, you?ll go through a quick secondary security check by uploading your government-issued ID and having a free, quick chat through Google Hangout ? and then you?re good to go!
Add-ons to consider:
Upwork has a number of sub-profiles and specialized features that can improve your chances to meet your ideal employers. Each of these sections can be utilized or ignored at will ? but the more of these you complete, and the faster you complete them, the faster you?ll get to where you want to be.
- Your portfolio is an optional section where you can upload or link to projects for prospective clients to view. The more high-quality, relevant pieces you display, the more clients you?ll get.
- Specialized profiles allow you to build secondary and tertiary profiles geared around a particular skillset. In addition to your general ?about me? profile, interested clients can view a skillset more targeted toward their required needs.
- Popular projects is a section that lets you detail an outline of offered services ? for example, building a set of webpages, writing a short story, or illustrating a comic strip. For clients who aren?t sure what services they want, or clients just browsing through profiles, this can be a good way to catch somebody?s eye and earn a contract you weren?t even searching for.
- A well-worded, succinct description of yourself
- A description of your skills, abilities, and desired work
- Job tags: you?ll select these through the registration process, but it?s worth a quick mention here. Job tags (such as Website Design, Creative Writing, Business, etc) are what Upwork will use to build your feed, which is an amalgam of the job posts that fit your skills. Be sure to take the time to figure out which tags are most useful and profitable for you, as not doing so can mean you won?t be shown jobs you may really want.
In freelancing, marketing yourself is just the name of the game, as awkward and unfortunate as it may seem. On Upwork, this is done through thoroughly pimping your profile, from your description to your portfolio to anything else you upload or fill out.
This includes your proposals.
The basic function of Upwork is such: freelancers find jobs posted by clients, assess the required skills and timeframe, and apply with a proposal. Each proposal has a blank cover letter, which is where you can respond to questions or claims in the job posting, explain your skills and experience, and really sell yourself to that particular client. The key here, as everywhere else on Upwork, is to be honest ? especially if you?re applying for a job you don?t qualify for based on requested criteria but believe you have the skills to complete otherwise.
Proposals also allow you to request your desired fee, either broken down into units or as a whole project. For clients, proposals offer a chance to ask specific questions: some are designed simply to weed out bots and mass-produced temples; while others ? usually the higher-paying clients ? are designed to truly learn more about a freelancer?s skills and desire to complete the job.
Get to work
After your profile has been fully built and you?re confident that you?ve explored the website enough to understand how to best utilize it, it?s time to actually work. New freelancers can expect to bid low and haggle higher, or just take the insultingly low pay on a project or five to get those first few critical reviews on your profile. After you have a few four-to-five-star reviews, higher-paying clients will be more likely to look twice at your proposal and give you serious consideration.
Completing contracts is a very straightforward process. When you?re hired, a contract will be started. Clients deposit money into an escrow account, the freelancer completes the work, and the client approves the payment ? pretty easy, right?
The catch: Upwork?s fee structure.
While Upwork does its job well, this is only possible due to their commission structure, which works as such per each individual client (billed over time, not per project):
- 20% on $500 or less
- 10% on $10,000 or less
- 5% on anything over $10,000
This is a fairly high price to pay, especially for freelancers who can?t seem to land those big contracts. However, the cost can be offset by building strong relationships with individual clients, and by negotiating higher pay per contract.
The last step of every contract is for the freelancer and client to rate each other based on their interactions and the work delivered. As always, be honest but fair ? if a client was truly a pain in the kiester, let the world know. Likewise, if your work was subpar or needed thirty revisions, expect the world to find out about your major flaws as a freelancer. Either way, the client and freelancer don?t get to view each other?s rating until after they?ve submitted their own, so get those in fast!
Building a profile and making money on Upwork isn?t difficult, but it requires a basic knowledge of how the site functions, some playing around with your profile, and a lot of time and energy invested in marketing yourself over and over to clients who most likely will reject your proposal in the end. Growing a thick hide and being prepared to face rejection is essential for a freelancer on Upwork, as is the desire to grow and succeed in their chosen craft.
To all of you new freelancers out there: Good luck and enjoy your newfound income.